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Knox, William (1756-1795) to Henry Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.01153 Author/Creator: Knox, William (1756-1795) Place Written: Boston, Massachusetts Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 22 August 1781 Pagination: 3 p. : docket ; 30.4 x 18.6 cm.

Summary of Content: References Henry's letter of 8 August 1781. Updates Henry on news he has heard. Says the French fleet was to have left Newport the day before to connect up with the Compte De Grasse, who is supposed to be nearing the continent with more French ships. Says a ship was captured going from Charleston for England with letters from Colonel Balfour, which gives information relating to British plans for operations in the South. Balfour supposedly said "General Greene has exhibited such talents, as to take advantage of any opening given him by the King's Army." Balfour also supposedly said South Carolina has revolted in the backcountry, leaving the British in control of very little. Says he has heard that Lord Rawton is ill in South Carolina. Reports on events in the West Indies. Goes on to say he received the newspaper and that it appears his intelligence on Balfour's letters was exaggerated. Says the French have recently told the British that if their prisoners are mistreated that they will have to retaliate. Asks for all the news Henry can send with propriety. Imagines he must be using his French very often as he heard several important French officers do not speak English. Says he knows Henry learned the "theoretical part," of the language but that with "a little patience [it] would come easy to you." Speaks highly of the French officers he dined with while visiting Newport including the Marquis de Chastellux.

Full Transcript: [draft]
Boston 22d Aug.t 1781.
I received yours of the 8.th my dear Brother and since, the order it mentioned, which has been duly honr'd.
The French Fleet was to ...have left Newport the day before yesterday, in order to join that of Monsr. Le Compte De Grace, which from the intelligence received by two vessells, who left him about thirteen days since, must be near the Continent: we find by persons very lately from New York that the Garrison appears much chagrin'd at the Idea of the French Fleet being on their Passage to this Quarter while they have no account of Chevalier Rodney, but altho' this is the case they still please themselves with the prospect of seeing him at the Hook before M. De Grace. Some official Letters from Colo. Balfour have been lately taken in a vessel from Charlestown for England [inserted: carrd into Salem], in which I am informed, he relates his situation, as well as the operations in General of the English Forces in the Southern Quarter in terms which must damp the lately elated expectations of the Ministry, He says that General Greene has exhibited such talents, as to take advantage of any opening given him by the Kings Army, that [struck: the] South Carolina from Being in full possession had revolted unanimously to the American Side, that they were reduced to the possession of two posts vir [ac] & Charlestown, the latter of wch he was strenghening, by adding to the works, not knowing what might take place in Short he writes in the most discouraging strain, which from what we know is the only strain he could write in provided he related Facts. Lord Rawdon tis said. (by a vessell lately brought in here from Charlestown loaded with [Rice] & Indigo) to be so ill that his life is despaired off.
In the Magicienne which lately arrived from France some recent intelligence was conveyed relative to the situations of affairs in the Indies particularly that Heyder Ally was before Madrass with an immense Army both of Seapoys & regular Troops [3] Troops that the English had offered at great sum to any one who should bring in Heyders Head, upon his being informed of this, he swore his whole Army, in case this event should take place, that they would decapitate every prisoner in their possession, that the English were in want of Stores at Madrass, that they had sent to some possessions of the Danes in their Neighbourhood, for the articles they most wanted, and while they were in the act of negociating for them, Heyder had intelligence of it, and sent a force, took the Stores, and paid their value to the former possessors, they (the Eng.n) also sent to the Dutch settlements, for assistance but were evasively refused, from these accounts their situation and prospects in the Indies are rather unpromising: Commodore Johnson with five ships and a number of Transports was overtake somewhere near the coast of Portugal, going to Madrass by M. Le Compte De Souffran [inserted: (w.th 5 ships)] an Action was the consequence in which the latter had so much the advantage, as to cause the former to run away after loosing two very rich transports. Commodore J tis said in his official Letter imputes his misfortune to the bad conduct of the officers of his little Fleet, and says he beleives had they have behaved well, he should [inserted: have] had materially the advantage of the French Squadron, if not [inserted: have] taken them all.
By the Paper of [strikeout] [inserted: this] day I find the account I had received of Col. Balfours Letters was rather exaggerated, altho' as [struck: it] [inserted: they] stand I do not think [struck: it] [inserted: they] will be very consolatory ones.
The Humanity with which the French treat the British Prisoners, will [inserted: I hope] induce the latter to observe a defferent mode of treatment to many of our poor fellows at N. York, a number of Officers which were lately taken [struck: in] [inserted: by] the Hermoine and L'Astria and brought in Here are treated more like brother Officers than Prisoners, whenever the French Officers come up to Town, the former accompany them, its pleasing to see the Horrors of War alleviated by the most delicate attention to [inserted: the] Laws of Humanity, this pleasure would receive an addition from a similar conduct taking place on the part of the British. Mons.r de Barras [3] has lately sent Mons.r Serrer, (late Cap.t in Second of the Sagittaire as a Flagg to New York, to inform the English Commanders, that if they persist in treating their Prisoners with inhumanity the most equal retaliation will take place on his part.
I beg you to inform me of every thing in the military way that you [inserted: can] with propriety. Any anecdotes of the French or American part of the Army which you might think trifling would be [struck: interesting] [inserted: pleasing] to one who feels himself interested in every thing that concerns it. I suppose from necessity you are obliged to speak much French, which from having long since learnt the theoretical part. I should imagine from a little practice [inserted: would] come easy to you. If I recollect the Compte Rochambeau, don't speak a word of Eng.lh nor does the two Brothers Baron & Viscount Vieminis, [struck: or] Marquis Laval or Compte S.t Meme, the two Count Deux Ponts on the other hand speak pretty well & the most Amiable General Chatelllux a marveille if you have opportunity I am sure you must be very intimate w.th General C. if the two Characters of the Man of Letters & polite Gentle[struck: men] [inserted: men] are recommendations. I know no body who [struck: has] [inserted: can be more] strongly recommended, I have reason to speak of the civility of all the Gentlemen I have named, and of many which I have not & who belong to that Army, but more particularly of those shewn me by the Chev.r Chatellux at whose petites Souper's I was envited two evenings out of three [struck: upon] when at Newport, I mention this as being invited to Dine is a common compliment from him to recommended strangers but the evening circle is always selected.
Give my love to Mrs Knox Lucy & Hal. & particular Regard to Major Shaw & Colo Jackson & believe me to be my dear Friend & Brother
Yr Affectionate

From Mr William Knox
22d August 1781
See More

People: Knox, William, 1756-1795
Knox, Henry, 1750-1806

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: NavyPrisoner of WarFranceRevolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyMilitary HistoryRebellionLoyalistHealth and MedicalCaribbeanJournalismLiterature and Language ArtsEducation

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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